Engineering Certificate Program

Graduate Gustavo Tavarez talks about the Manufacturing Engineering Certificate Program at Hitchiner Manufacturing in Milford, a cooperative venture between Hitchiner and Keene State College. The program’s first class graduated in June 2018.

Jobs, jobs, jobs and no one to fill them — at least not the people with the right skills.

At 3.7%, the U.S. unemployment rate remains near a half-century low. In New Hampshire, it’s on track to mark the third straight full year below 3%, hovering at 2.4%.

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That means thousands of jobs in the Granite State are going unfilled. How can we find and retain the workers we need to keep our economy strong? What’s the solution?

For New Hampshire Employment Security, it’s trying to tap “experienced workers.” In November, the state co-hosted a job fair aimed at older workers that attracted 630 job seekers and 86 employers.

Hitchiner Manufacturing in Milford had difficulty hiring engineers so it created a certificate program with Keene State College to provide on-site training to its current workers, helping longtime employees advance to higher paying jobs. The first group of employees graduated in June 2018.

BAE Systems works with community colleges and high schools to recruit candidates for internships and entry-level jobs. The defense contractor’s 16-week Women in Technology program offers high school students the opportunity to explore careers in technology, engineering and math.

These are just a few of the examples we have featured in the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News over the past few years.

Beginning later this month, reporter Michael Cousineau will be looking for more.

Mike will be working on workforce development solutions through a grant-funded program developed by the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications.

The purpose of the series — “What’s Working” — is to underscore the state’s need to cultivate a skilled workforce as essential to New Hampshire’s economic growth.

Mike will be researching what the state, educational institutions, businesses and other organizations are doing to recruit, retain and retrain workers.

“What’s Working” marks the New Hampshire Solutions Journalism Lab’s third reporting project.

In “Silver Linings,” Roberta Baker focused on issues of aging. For “Beyond the Stigma,” Shawne K. Wickham examined mental health and addiction.

Both of those projects overlapped with some of the issues Mike will explore as he reports on the workforce.

Problems and solutions are never self-contained, which makes finding the answers so complicated.

Mike will be looking for success stories, including those from businesses that have created programs to grow their own workers.

Making a case for STEAM

A Josh Groban concert is hardly the venue I expected to be getting tips about workforce development.

During his performance last month at the SNHU Arena, the singer described himself as a shy kid who had difficulty making friends and took home mediocre grades.

Then someone encouraged him to pursue musical theater at the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts.

That’s when Goban discovered his calling.

The teen who would become a megastar singing “You Raise Me Up” found a career path that set him aloft.

At the concert, Groban talked about the importance of teachers and made a pitch for STEAM — the acronym for science, technology, engineering and math education that improves on STEM by adding “art” into the equation.

Groban’s path to stardom is a rare career trajectory — most professional singers, actors and musicians scrape by to make a living.

But it’s a great example of how learning is different for everyone and how creating the right opportunity for someone can tap their strength and their passion.

Solving New Hampshire’s workforce and skills shortage is about more than just filling jobs and keeping businesses humming.

It’s figuring out how to help people find meaningful work that has the power to transform their lives — something that can raise them up.

Turning the tables on stocks

Stocks and mutual funds listings will no longer appear in the New Hampshire Sunday News and the New Hampshire Union Leader. The company that provided us that material as part of a broader national and international news package has discontinued the service. We know there are still some readers who were using those tables, and we regret that we can no longer provide them.

The reality is there is little demand for that service these days from news providers. The internet has long made it possible for stock and mutual fund owners to check the latest prices 24 hours a day on their computers, smartphones and tablets. Progress never comes without some pain.

Mike Cote is the business editor of the New Hampshire Union Leader. Contact him at mcote@unionleader.com or (603) 206-7724.